All across the world on Sundays—whether in big sanctuaries, or small rooms, or house churches, or megachurches—more than 2 billion people who claim the name of Jesus Christ hear the preaching of God’s Word. On the basis of what’s in the Bible, these preachers will exhort the congregation and call for obedience.
What’s going on with this ritual? What does this moment of preaching God’s Word represent?
When we open God’s Word and listen to it preached, we welcome it into our lives (1 Thess. 2:13). We are saying authority lies not in the preacher, but in the Word that is preached. A preacher can give an opinion, but only the Word of God is infallible and unerring. Only the Word of God is truth.
When we come together to listen to the Word, we are also saying to the world: God exercises his authority through this Book. And this shouldn’t happen only on Sundays, but every time we open the Bible for ourselves. We welcome God’s reign in our lives whenever we approach his Word with a humble and obedient posture.
Unfortunately, sometimes we hear the Word of God and understand it intellectually without internalizing the message. It’s possible to believe the Word comes from God, but to not put it into practice.
The way you show you’ve received God’s Word is through your obedience. The Word works on your heart and does what no human message can do.
We need to be centered on the Word of God if we’re going to be effective as believers. We won’t spread the gospel, and we won’t be effective in our witness unless we’re centered on something other than ourselves.
We don’t need more self-centered people, or more church-centered churches. We need Word-centered people and Word-centered churches—understanding that above all else, God’s Word points us to the Word made flesh. To be Word-centered is to be Christ-centered. We look to God’s Word because we want to follow Jesus Christ Himself.
Re-centering by the Word
Something curious takes place every time you go to the beach and get out into the ocean. After you spend some time floating with your goggles on, looking underwater for fish, or after you ride a few waves back to shore, you look up and think, Wait a second! Who moved my stuff? You’re no longer looking straight to shore at your umbrella. Your towels and beach bag and chairs aren’t where you left them. Then, in a split second, you realize that your stuff is just fine. You were the one who moved. While you were in the water, you drifted with the current down the shoreline, and this drift was imperceptible to you. What do you do next? You re-center yourself. You get back in line with the place you staked out on the shore.
Getting in the Word ought to be like that for us. We drift without noticing. The currents of this world, in ways imperceptible to us, are always driving us one way or another. We need a daily reminder of who God is, who we are, what a great salvation we’ve received, and how we’re called to live. Elisabeth Elliot wrote, “We can’t really tell how crooked our thinking is until we line it up with the straight edge of Scripture.”
When we open our Bibles, we are re-centering ourselves on God’s Word. We’re saying: This is our anchor. This is our reference point. We are disciples of Jesus Christ who joyfully submit to the authority of whatever he says in his Word.
Word as a Gift
Daily we get bombarded by messages through the media, advertisements, and social media trying to get our attention, wanting us to engage, see the latest news, buy the latest product. They do this by catering to our interests and our desires, by focusing the message on us.
But the gospel is different. It’s not trying to get something from us. It’s a message about Someone trying to give something to us. It’s not a message of personal flattery; it shows our personal failures. It’s a message about human sin and divine salvation. The Word doesn’t point the spotlight at us, but turns our attention to Jesus, the Son of God, the Word in flesh, given for us. The gospel is a message for us, but it’s from God and it’s about God: who he is, what he is like, what he has done to rescue us.
Why do we welcome God’s Word in our daily devotions and every weekend with believers, silencing all the other messages we hear day and night, week in and week out? Because we long to hear the old, old story of Jesus Christ. That’s what we need the most. Not something new, but something old. Something we already know, but need to hear again and again—the gospel of Jesus Christ delivered through the authority of God’s Word—so that we might be effective Christians who realign with God and his mission.